Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country in Europe. While still named the “Swiss Confederation” for historical reasons, modern Switzerland is a federal directorial republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, called Bundesstadt (“federal city”). The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global and economic centres, Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as the Swiss National Day. The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably it is not part of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area. However the country does participate in the Schengen Area and the EU’s single market through a number of bilateral treaties.
The population is about 8 million, resulting in an average population density of around 195 people per square kilometre (500/sq mi). The more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than the northern half. In the largest Canton of Graubünden, lying entirely in the Alps, population density falls to 27 /km² (70 /sq mi).
Switzerland lies between latitudes 45° and 48° N, and longitudes 5° and 11° E. It contains three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps to the south, the Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau, and the Jura mountains on the west. The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60% of the country’s total area. The majority of the Swiss population live in the Swiss Plateau. Among the high valleys of the Swiss Alps many glaciers are found, totalling an area of 1,063 square kilometres (410 sq mi). From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn, Ticino and Rhône, which flow in the four cardinal directions into the whole of Europe.
The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate at Switzerland’s southern tip. There are some valley areas in the southern part of Switzerland where some cold-hardy palm trees are found. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion, during these periods, thus seeing no sun for weeks.
Saint Bernard, symbol of Switzerland. In Switzerland to hear someone say, « he is a real Saint Bernard, » is not an insulting reference to a dog face, but rather the highest compliment. It means that person is a generous do gooder who dedicates his life to saving other people.
The St. Bernard or St Bernard is a breed of very large working dog from Swiss Alps and north Italy and Switzerland, originally bred for rescue. The breed has become famous through tales of alpine rescues, as well as for its enormous size.
The Swiss National Park is located in the Western Rhaetian Alps, in easternSwitzerland. It is within the canton of Graubünden, between Zernez, S-chanf, Scuol, and the Fuorn Pass in the Engadin valley on the border with Italy.
As of 2009, it is the only National Park in Switzerland, though there are plans to create more. It has an area of 174.2 km² and is the largest protected area of the country. It was founded on 1 August 1914, the national holiday of Switzerland. It was one of the earliest national parks in Europe. In the park, one is not allowed to leave the road, make fire or sleep outside the Chamanna Cluozza; the mountain hut located in the park. It is also forbidden to disturb the animals or the plants, or to take home anything found in the park. Dogs are not allowed, not even on a leash. Due to these strict rules, the Swiss National Park is the only park in the Alps who has been categorized by the IUCN as a strict nature reserve, which is the highest protection level.